Friday, February 22, 2013

Corrections begins awarding 'good time' off prison sentences

By Jamey Dunn

The Illinois Department of Corrections has begun awarding inmates time off of their sentences under a good-time credit law approved last year.

“After careful review, the department has begun to provisionally award supplemental sentence credit to approximately 12 eligible inmates. These provisional awards will become final awards of sentence credit near an inmate’s parole date. The department continues to review inmate files and will award credit to eligible low-level inmates as appropriate after careful and thoughtful review,” said a written statement from the DoC. So far, no inmates have been released early under the program.

 In 2009, the Department of Corrections instituted a policy dubbed MGT Push, which waived the a longstanding waiting period and allowed inmates to apply their credit immediately. This decision was made behind closed doors and was not publicized. After the Associated Press reported on the program, the fallout plagued Gov. Pat Quinn as he was running for the governor’s office in 2010. Quinn pulled together a group of staff members and experts who released a report in 2010 suggesting reforms that should take place before early release was reinstated. However, Quinn dropped the issue, and the program remained suspended for years while the state’s prisons faced overcrowding.

But after the General Assembly approved legislation creating a new program for awarding non-violent prisoners time off their sentences for good behavior, Quinn signed the bill last summer. “We worked it out with the legislature. It was long in coming. A judge did a study of the whole system and recommended a number of reforms. The legislature took that study, put it into law. I signed it into law, and we’re carrying it out,” Quinn said earlier this week. “We’ve got to follow the blueprint that is outlined in the law, and I think we will do very well if we go forward right with that.”

The department is referring to the time off, as “supplemental sentence credit (SSC).” The credit can shave up to 180 days off a sentence. Inmates must serve 60 days before becoming eligible for program. According to a news release from DoC: “The file review includes a comprehensive examination of an offender’s current holding offense(s) as well as any criminal history and disciplinary record. Programming, educational courses, assignments and any other supporting evidence that could show an offender’s progression towards rehabilitation will also be reviewed.” After credit is awarded, the department can revoke it if an inmate has disciplinary problems.

Requirements for the program are listed on the department’s website. However, awarding of the credit is at the discretion of DoC. “It is important to note that even if an offender is potentially eligible for an award of SSC, the offender should not and does not have an outright expectation to receive an award,” the website states. DoC says it will not be able to project who will receive credit under the program, and it will not respond to inquires about potential eligibility. “Because of the many factors the department intends to consider for each potentially eligible offender, it is impossible for the department to project whether or when any specific offender will receive an award of SSC credit. It is also not possible for the department to respond to inquiries concerning an offender’s likelihood of receiving an award of SSC due to the department’s policy that prevents the disclosure of confidential master record file information and criminal history.” However, DoC says it will notify inmates who get credit, and the credit will be reflected on their profiles on the DoC’s website. The department is also required to notify local law enforcement at least two weeks before the parole date of any inmate who receives time off his or her sentence under the program.


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